Review of ‘In Place of Fear’ by Catriona McPherson

‘In Place of Fear’ by Catriona McPherson is set in Edinburgh in 1948, at the birth of the NHS. Helen begins a new job as Medical Almoner, which is a welfare role within the practice. Whatever the doctors can’t help with medically, will normally fall under her remit. Her family don’t seem happy that she’s even working, never mind with two male doctors. They are of the opinion that a married woman should be having babies and staying at home. There is also the inverted snobbery attitude that she is trying to rise above her station in life, and girls like her from the poor tenements should be working in factories, not a doctor’s office. When Helen stumbles across a dead body, she finds her herself investigating the murkier side of life. It seems people will stop at nothing to prevent scandal, and by poking her nose in, Helen is in grave danger. 

I have read Catriona McPherson’s Dandy Silver series set in the 1920s and enjoyed them immensely. This is very different, in that the heroine is a working class woman, dealing with the harsh realities of life just after the Second World War. The historical aspects of the new NHS fascinated me. Its inception made life bearable for so many people and continues to this day, despite the efforts of some politicians.

The descriptions of Edinburgh in the 1940s felt so real and so desperate. The poverty was appalling still. The use of local language and dialect gave it a gritty reality, and I hope that those reading out-with Scotland will appreciate its richness.

The mystery is well told, as Helen delves into the seedy underbelly of Edinburgh, and finds out some secrets that others will kill to keep hidden. It was tense and compelling. There was also love and loyalty and a desire to make things better. I loved it.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Legacy In The Blood’ by Catherine Maiorisi

‘Legacy In The Blood’ is an intelligent, complex and thought-provoking crime novel, with believable and well written characters. NYPD Detectives Chiara Corelli and P.J. Parker are partners assigned to the suspicious death of a man in a park. When they begin to investigate further, the victim’s complicated life opens up a whole new avenue of questions. Ned Rich was an investigative reporter with a lifestyle way above that of a journalist. Where was he getting this extra money? The answer may explain why he was killed. As family secrets are unearthed, and a link to the white supremacist movement, the detectives find the danger brought to their own doors. 

This is the first book in this particular series that I have read and I had no trouble jumping right in and grasping the backstory. The relationship between the two detectives has certain nuances that are well explained by the author. I liked their rapport and I liked them. The descriptions of New York were excellent and it is clear that Catherine Maiorisi knows her way around. It made the story all the more authentic. I also loved the diversity of the characters in terms of race, age and sexuality. The story has good, tight plotting and flowed well. I felt completely invested. I can’t believe it has taken me so long to read this author’s work, but I feel compelled to go back and find more. A top-notch crime novel.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Undercover’ by Barbara Winkes

‘Undercover’ by Barbara Winkes is the first in a new series, and features Kendall Mancini, boss of a crime family, but with a heart of gold. Jess/Robyn, an FBI agent is sent in undercover to try and stop a war between the powerful families in the city. Her aim is to convince Kendall to turn away from crime and work with the authorities to bring down the murderous elements within the families. What she didn’t expect was the attraction between them. Keeping secrets was always going to be dangerous, but now it is personal too. 

I liked that the story was told from two points of view. We got to know Kendall and Jess/Robyn intimately and could therefore empathise with their dilemmas. We also knew their secrets and the painful decisions each had to make. The author cleverly ratcheted up the tension, making me wonder whose side I was on. Did I want the head of a crime syndicate to prevail? Or the law enforcement officer? As their romance grew I wanted it to work out for them, whatever the cost. 

I thought I knew where it was going, but the author managed to  twist it all and surprise me again and again.  It was a very good story with relatable characters. It ended in a way that makes me desperate to read the next in the series.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘The Hog’s Back Mystery’ by Freeman Wills Crofts

‘The Hog’s Back Mystery’ by Freeman Wills Crofts is an Inspector French mystery written in the 1930s. Set in the North Downs in Surrey, it is the story of a mysterious disappearance that becomes more intriguing as the case progresses. Dr James Earle lives quietly with his wife in the countryside. When he goes missing, the inspector is called in from Scotland Yard. But French cannot fathom what on earth has happened to him. When a visitor goes missing too, the police are baffled. Nothing makes any sense. But the author has concocted a brilliant puzzle. I was completely fooled and thoroughly satisfied by the end.

The setting is the last place one would expect such crimes to take place. It is rural and quiet and the inhabitants apparently genteel and respectable. The writing style perfectly matches this. But as any reader of English countryside mysteries knows, so much lurks under the surface. 

I don’t think I’ve ever read a mystery where the investigation is laid out so meticulously.  We see into the mind of the Inspector and begin to understand the crimes as he explains his thinking.  It was a brilliant piece of investigation, broken down in the most compelling way. I was hooked. I am so glad there as more in this series for me to discover.

I was given this book to review.

Review of ‘Miss Aldridge Regrets’ by Louise Hare

‘Miss Aldridge Regrets’ by Louise Hare is perfect for fans of the Golden Age mystery novels of Agatha Christie and the like. Lena jumps at the chance to sail off to New York when a fantastic job offer comes her way. Working in a basement jazz club was never the plan, but a murder in the cub makes her desire to get out of London all the more urgent. Once on board the Queen Mary she is pushed into spending time with a rich and influential family. Danger lurks around every corner, even if Lena doesn’t realise it. A mystery unravels as they cross the Atlantic – and someone is intent on causing mayhem. 

The story had the best setting. A murder mystery aboard an ocean liner is always going to get my vote. The mystery was well done, and the author brought in class and race issues that made it feel real. Her female characters were interesting and their lives drove the story for me. I enjoyed it.

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Due To A Death’ by Mary Kelly

‘Due To A Death’ by Mary Kelly is a dark, suspenseful novel published and set in the early 1960s. It is the story of Agnes and her first person narration of the events in her village in the days leading up to a terrible discovery. A body is found on the marsh. There are secrets amongst the people she knows and loves. As she thinks back we begin to discover that people are not always who they seem to be. 

This book is a departure from the usual reprints I have read in this genre. It is well written and immersive, but it is not in any way cosy or representative of the crime books I normally read. It is dark and grim and depressing. And this may be right up your street. It is also slow-paced, as the author takes her time to tell the story. So if you enjoy your mysteries on the darker side this is for you. 

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Four Aunties And A Wedding’. by Jesse Sutanto

If you want to be cheered up in these difficult times, then this is the book to do it. Meddy Chan is about to get married to the man of her dreams, Nathan. At Christ Church College, Oxford, no less. As the family travel to the U.K., the behaviour of the aunties begins to cause her some embarrassment. But that’s just the start of Meddy’s worries. If she’s going to save her wedding, then drastic measures are needed, and the aunties rise to the occasion.

This is a hilariously funny and light-hearted book, guaranteed to cheer anyone up. Jesse Sutanto has the market cornered when it comes to the ridiculous. I loved it. Her aunties are brilliant. The descriptions of the Chinese-Indonesian culture are excellent. How her family choose to interpret it had me in fits of laughter. The women are warm and loving and will do anything for family.

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Dead Pretty’ by Robyn Nyx

‘Dead Pretty’ by Robyn Nyx is a fast-paced, tense and exciting thriller. Normally assigned to cold cases, FBI Special Agent Dak Farrell is helping the local Salt Lake City police investigate a serial killer. A brutal and cruel series of murders is baffling the local PD, and they need Dak’s expertise to stop the killer before anyone else dies. C.J. Johnson is a reality TV star, back in town when her show gets cancelled. She is a mortician who uses her skills on TV to make the dead look good again for their open casket viewings. Yes, it’s a truly bizarre concept, but so is much of the weird and wonderful TV these days. Neither of them is looking for anything serious, but will a fling be enough? As they become closer, CJ’s life is in danger. It seems the ‘Artist’ serial killer does not appreciate her reconstructive work on his victims.

‘Dead Pretty’ is a well written and exquisitely plotted story. It is unusual and perplexing and kept me hooked, as I tried to solve the mystery. I didn’t guess the outcome at all. I enjoyed finding out Dak and CJ’s backstories. It made them much more interesting, and I could see why they were the people they were. Their connection was powerful and extremely hot.

‘Dead Pretty’ is crying out to be made into a movie. It is head and shoulders above many of the scripts we see brought to our screens. Highly recommended.

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘The Paris Apartment’ by Lucy Foley

‘The Paris Apartment’ by Lucy Foley is a tense and chilling psychological mystery set in a luxury apartment block in Paris. Jess flees a bad situation back home for the comfort of her half-brother Ben’s flat in the French capital. When she arrives he’s nowhere to be found, and all her enquiries lead to more questions.  His neighbours have secrets of their own -but what do they have to do with Ben? And can she trust any of them?

Told from the point of view of several characters, it means the unreliable  narrator  is part of the story. It keeps the reader guessing. Jess is not exactly a sympathetic character, so one never knows who to trust. There are so many secrets and shifty characters. It’s quite a slow burn story but worth the wait as the ending shocked and surprised me. I did not see it coming. 

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Murder On An Irish Farm’ by Carlene O’Connor

‘Murder On An Irish Farm’ by Carlene O’Conner is the eighth in the series, but can most definitely be read as a standalone. It is the first I have read and had no problem understanding the background. The story starts on the day of the wedding of Siobhan and Macdara, a wedding the has to be put on hold when a skeleton is found in a disused slurry pit on a nearby farm. The pair put duty first and run off to investigate. When the case harks back fifty years, the elderly neighbours to the farm become involved, and long held secrets lead to more danger and peril for the detectives. Will they be able to solve the murder before anyone else gets hurt? 

I loved the small Irish village setting. It was beautifully described, and the people and their use of language was spot on. I could imagine it so well and hear the dialogue spoken in the wonderful Irish accent. There is humour too, which points to a nation that does not take itself or anyone else too seriously. The author blends this humour with a steely determination to solve crime. It was a fantastic mystery, with lovable characters and the perfect setting. 

I was given this ARC for review.